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Parking problems plague Merchant's Row

Owner says pedestrian bridge plus parking on Packard will help

Nov. 14, 2007

The Fixx, 3558 E. Sivyer Ave., is one of the first businesses to open in the Merchant's Row shopping center. It also is the first to experience a few problems.

When owner/manager Shari Franz opened her coffee shop in late August, she planned to offer several activities for patrons. Two months later, Franz said her business has encountered problems due to lack of parking and poor signage - concerns she shared with the Common Council on Nov. 6.

"I am a new business in St. Francis and trying very hard to stay open, but these issues are plaguing my business," she said in a letter.

Franz said she was not aware the parking area next her lot had been promised to the Carleton Grange Pub by her landlord, Ralph Bruno. She also expected to have parking along Sivyer Avenue, which is still under construction.

Franz has 24 parking spots for employees and customers. Those spots are shared with shared with nearby Foamation, Mirror Mirror, Andaré Fitness and Carleton Grange Pub. Her café has a capacity for about 60 patrons, she said.

"I also have to wonder how the Merchant's Row was ever approved knowing that all the parking was given to the pub," she said.

Removing buildings an option

Melinda Dejewski, the city engineer, said that when Bruno and architect Craig Ellsworth discussed shared parking and presented drawings before the Plan Commission in 2006, they showed there would be adequate parking, and if there was not, Bruno told the commission he could tear down additional storage units he owns nearby.

"It is becoming evident that he is going to have to do that to accommodate all that parking," Dejewski said.

Dejewski said Bruno did not present the most current plan approved by commissioners to Franz when she leased her space from him.

"So (Franz) had a misunderstanding of what parking was going to be on Sivyer Avenue, and it was not disclosed to her that (Bruno) had a shared parking agreement with the Carleton Grange," Dejewski said.

Another parking concern, Dejewski said, is that parking spots near Carleton Grange are being occupied by its employees.

To alleviate some of the parking issues, she recommended certain spots be designated two-hour parking zones for patrons.

In addition to the other businesses that share the parking lot, there is still one Merchant's Row unit for lease. Nearby Lakeside Grinding Company, 3559 E. Sivyer Ave., also needs space so semi-trucks can pull up to its facility. Bruno also is considering renovating another building on the opposite side of Foamation into a complex similar to Merchant's Row, which further complicates parking issues.

Owner cites concern with city

"It was discussed with Craig Ellsworth and others, as I recall, to open up that back lot if they needed it, and that should be done," said 2nd District Alderman Donald Brickner.

Reached after the Nov. 6 meeting for comment, Bruno said the city was supposed to finish construction on Sivyer Avenue by Nov. 2, but it is not yet complete. Once the street is opened, some parking issues will be resolved, Bruno said.

He said city officials also told him parking would be developed on Packard Avenue, but that has not happened. In the original plan, city officials showed there would be a pedestrian crossing from South Lake Drive to Packard Avenue, so that people could walk to Merchant's Row, but that also has not yet occurred, Bruno said.

A motion was made to refer the item to the Plan Commission to examine the development agreement. Officials also will draft an ordinance to designate certain parking spots in the area of Merchant's Row as two-hour and some as no-parking zones for trucks entering Lakeside Grinding Company.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at cbalzell@cninow.com or (262) 446-6602.

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